Andrew’s 2019 Autumn Newsletter

Posted by on Dec 16, 2019 in Andrew's Newsletter, Harvest, Vineyard | No Comments

All good things must come to an end and so it is with this year’s autumn. I have to admit that autumn itself seemed delayed, it only really started with a blaze of glory in November. I wanted to say it is due to climate change but if that was the case then autumn should have come earlier! So who knows perhaps this year was typical of all Virginia weather patterns – that there is no consistent weather pattern. It is however hard to ignore Greta Thornbeg and science that confirms that everything is warming up except the enthusiasm by our political leaders to tackle climate change in a more realistic fashion.

Autumn Grandeur “Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness”


It has been a lovely, late autumn with all the autumnal colors and spices that we could wish for and now as winter beckons only the prospect of cozy nights by the fire offer us any consolation.

Crew in the vineyard


 As the finality of the seasons roll on it is a good time for me to look back at the harvest and the developments at Veritas.

The harvest was grand both in terms of quantity and quality, lots of lovely, clean, ripe fruit thanks to the hard, year long labors of our vineyard crew and their noble leader Field Marshall Bill Tonkins.


Before and After Pruning

This year for the first time we held a harvest dinner that we had hoped to hold in the vineyard itself but despite our efforts to be outstanding in the field it was simply to darn cold so we had it in the tasting room instead -not missing the opportunity to cozy up with blazing fire both inside and outside the tasting room.

Harvest Dinner

At this time of the year the vines are hunkering down about to go into what we call the “dormancy” phase for the winter. Now officially, according to tradition pruning doesn’t start until St Vincent’s Day January 22nd. The rationale being that between now and January 22nd we could have some blistering cold weather that could potentially knock off a lot of buds, so by pruning later we are reducing the risk of cold damage; in Virginia most vineyards start pruning in the second week of December.

And although things are quiet in the vineyard things are buzzing in the cellar. This is a time when Emily and Elliott put the wines through “elevage” a French term that simply translated as “up -bringing”a crucial time that just like a student of noble birth the wine has to be brought up in noble surroundings to achieve the full God given potential of the terroir.

This is the time when we select our best Chardonnay grapes to make our barrel fermented Reserve Chardonnay that we stir weekly so that the yeasts left over from fermentation (the lees) gradually dissolve into the wine creating that smooth mouth pleasing texture. As the wine ages on the lees so do the malolactic bacteria from the barrel soften the harsher malic acid to softer lactic acid creating those lovely soft, buttery flavors that add complexity of flavor to rich fruit flavors from our best grapes.

White Barrels showing the lees sedimenting to the lower half of the barrel

Now is the time to allow the wine to sleep and let all those tertiary barrel flavors of butterscotch, vanilla, coconut and honey mature as the wines develop into those wonderfully golden,balanced, intense complex liquids that we call our Reserve Chardonnay.

When the red wines have finished their tank fermentations we like to allow a period when the wine that now contains alcohol is left in contact with the grape skins to allow alcoholic (lipid soluble) extraction of pigment and color that we refer to as extended maceration

You can imagine that when it comes to aging the character of the barrel has even more importance than with white wines because red wines are aged much longer. Such has our understanding of the effect of oak on the wine that Emily and Elliott can actually order a barrel toasted to best suit the qualities like fruitiness or minerality that we want to emphasize in the wine.

Veritas French Red Wine Barrel

Barrel ordered for 2017 harvest specifically – FR stands for FreeRun, GF – Graves Field, PV1 for clone 1Petit Verdot- The oak custom designed for the wine.

As the red wines settle down to sleep in the barrel they too go through malolactic change and the lees gradually dissolve into the wine this time without the need for stirring mainly because the wine will spend a longer time in the barrel. As the red wines age in the barrel so do the flavors of oak vanilla, coconut,cedar and clove gradually imbue themselves into the wine. Minute amounts of oxygen diffuse into the barrel as the months and years go by causing the tannins to link up and in so doing diminish their own bitterness and astringency making the wine texturally softer whilst at the same time adding to the body and color of the wine.  

Graph Showing increase in red wine components with time.

This is  the time that we make our base wine for what is to be our sparkling wine. Remember that yeast is inhibited by alcohol so the base wine has to have a low alcohol level to allow the second fermentation in the bottle to occur. Talking of sparkling wine you may have heard that we are starting a new company called The Virginia Sparkling Company a new venture separate from Veritas headed up by our very own Elliott Watkins who is to be the Director of Sparkling Services. Located at our facility on Route 151- Critzer’s Shop Road – where Flying Fox is located. Actually, as I write the newsletter work started today in building out the facility that is scheduled to be up and running in the spring. 

Betina Ring Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry presenting AFID grant.

The promise is so good for The Virgina Sparkling Company that we have been awarded an AFID ( Agriculture Forestry Industries Development) grant by the State of Virginia that was given to us  by Betina Ring the Secretary of Agriculture at a ceremony at Veritas on 

October 28th a ceremony attended by  our congressman Denver Riggleman, the chairman of Nelson County Board of Supervisors Larry Saunders and State Senator Creigh Deeds. Our whole family felt very honored to receive the first state award since we have been in business.

Person of the Season


Mickey Graves -an unsung hero

Mickey has been working with us forever in fact he has worked with us for so long that no one can remember when he started. If you are wondering if he is related to David Graves our erstwhile plant manager then you would be correct he David’s brother. Well Mickey deserves recognition because Mickey is the kind of guy you would call “the salt of the earth”. Unwavering in dedication to his work he does everything you ask him to do unconditionally. It was Mickey with his brother’s direction who laid the entire wood floor in the Ballroom. It is Mickey who mows the grass between the rows, it is Mickey who cuts the wood and every week drains our gray water.

He is touchingly humble in his work and attitude with everyone in the Veritas family – truly an unsung hero and someone we are all proud to know.



The Masked Ball our biggest bash of the year is booking up nicely for New Years- now in its 12th year we have a faithful following of people who know what a unique combination of entertainment, cuisine, wine and dance that the Ball combines every year as a heck of a way to bring in the New Year.

Last year at the Masked Ball.

And do not forget Valentines, it is on the weekend this year so we are planning another Veritas evening party with all the usual wine,cuisine and sultry mood music to charm your valentine.


Not a lot to report this quarter. Bill and Di just got back from yet another month long holiday this time encompassing the UK and italy.

Bill and Di in Rome

 Patricia and I celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary at the end of September. 

Wedding Anniversary

Patricia has really found her vocation and is painting her way to success with her water-colors.

Water Color

The Grand girls are all doing their own things – 

Lydia is erging her life away at crew,


Hailey  is running at the top of her age group.


Charlotte is Charlotte



Mimi is taking up LaCrosse.



Elsie and Isla – Halloween

I have been writing more what with the wine to drink with autumn and the wines to drink with Thanksgiving and finally the good old newsletter a look back on the season. All is safely gathered in and our lives are are about as good as they could be anywhere in the world today for which we are all eternally grateful. 


Time for Bubbly!


From all of us at Veritas we wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Andrew Hodson

Owner, Raconteur and Dilettante.